From the Office


Letters from ALCTS

From the Office

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

Volunteering: Part I of II

One of the most frequently asked questions that come to me via email (and even in person) is "How do I get appointed to an ALCTS committee?" Not surprising, since that is perhaps the most visible way a member can serve the association. Volunteering is not very hard. Getting appointed is somewhat harder, and can be the source of much frustration and bad feelings. So in this first installment about volunteering, I am going to talk about committees, the Division and Sections. The reason I am writing this one BEFORE Annual Conference will become clear (I hope).

Volunteering and then getting appointed to a committee is a time-honored way to serve ALCTS, add some useful entries to your resume, get to know people, and maybe launch an association volunteer career that will lead you to committee chairpersonship or higher office. The hardest part,as I have observed and know first-hand from my own experience, is getting that first appointment. ALCTS by and large has many more volunteer opportunities than any of the other divisions, save ACRL. Still we cannot accommodate, in any given year, everyone who desires a position. The appointing officers (the President-elect and the Section and CRG Chair-elects) try very hard to do so, despite the perception to the contrary.

Yes, it is true that many committee positions go to more experienced members, but in many cases there are reasons. In some cases, there is no reason. In some more cases, there is not anyone who wants to be appointed to a particular committee, and the appointing officer relies on familiar colleagues to fill those slots.

Many Possibilities

Let us take a look at some committees in regard to getting that appointment. These committees illustrate specific requirements that are useful in order to get an appointment to and serve on that committee. It is only a sampling.

CCS Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (CC:DA):
This is, without a doubt, the most requested committee in ALCTS. The reasons are many, but its prominence in the revision of the cataloging rules and its stature in the cataloging community go a long way to make it so. The people appointed to CC:DA have many years of experience in cataloging and rule interpretation. To be frank, it is probably not the committee to which a newly minted MLS will be appointed. CC:DA members are a virtual who’s who in ALCTS leadership and among the more influential catalogers.

CCS Subject Analysis Committee (SAC):
SAC, along with MARBI, are two other cataloging-related committees that are highly requested. Like CC:DA, these committees require many years of experience and specific knowledge. The other sections have their popular committees, too.

The Division-level committees often are overlooked because ALCTS members tend to think and act on their volunteering at the section level first, thereby almost ignoring the really rich possibilities of serving on a Division committee. The Division committees are sometimes replicated in varying degrees at the section level while some are unique to the Division level. Let us take a look at a few.

ALCTS Publications Committee:
 The Publications Committee oversees and manages the ALCTS publications program. A common misconception is that vast experience with publications is needed to serve. Although that might be useful, there are members of the committee do not have publications experience, but rather possess other traits that make them valuable, such as a critical eye, good evaluative skills, expertise in a subject area, and the like. The Program Committee fits this category as well.

ALCTS Leadership Development Committee:
The Leadership Development Committee is one of those committees that members often forget, yet provides leadership training to not just ALCTS, but to all of ALA. The requirement: be thoughtful and willing to work to develop such programming. The members vary greatly in experience and years of service. International Relations is another such committee.

The Organization & Bylaws Committee (O&B):
No one usually volunteers for O&B. Boring, you may say. This is one for the governance junkies out there. Process is good on this one. Other not real flashy (?) committees you might not consider are: Planning (yes, even though we just went through an entire planning process, the work goes on) and maybe Fundraising (you really have to like to ask people for money), and probably Budget & Finance (you need to know what a budget is and be able to read financial statements).

There are many, many more committees.

Make It Happen

So here are some ways that you can improve your chances of landing a committee appointment, and this is why I am writing this now instead of in August.

  • Fill out a volunteer form and submit it. More importantly, fill out the form completely. You would be surprised to learn how many forms we get with only the person’s name, contact information and one committee preference. There is space for you to tell us about yourself. Use it! You have to remember that the appointing officers may not know you.
  • Go to the Volunteer Forum on Saturday at Midwinter. Great chance to meet and greet the appointing officers and hear information firsthand.
  • Write the appointing officers and let them know you are interested. Certainly do not overdo it, but it helps for them to know that you are interested. It also helps to discuss with them what openings they might have.
  • Do not turn down an appointment for a committee you did not list. There are openings on every committee. There are committees for which there are few volunteers. The appointing officer may be asking you to accept one of those positions.
  • Do not be disappointed if you do not get your preferred committee the first time around. Remember my examples. Be flexible.
  • If you are new to ALCTS, have not had an appointment in many years, want to jump to a new section, or want to move to a Division committee, think seriously about accepting an intern position. Great way to get appointed as a regular committee member next cycle.
  • Go to the committee meetings and introduce yourself to the chair. Then mention that in your volunteer form. This works. It happened more than once this year that a person did just this and was appointed to that very committee.

With very few exceptions, we do not do the “pay your dues” thing in order to get you on a committee. Then it is not really “pay your dues,” but more "we need this knowledge and experience." This is a past, current, and probably future misconception. But as we all know, perception IS reality.

Finally, if you do not hear from the appointing officers about your volunteer form, let us know. That includes me.

The next installment (in August) will focus on how to create your own appointment. Yes, you really can do that. That appointment is called a Discussion Group or an Interest Group.

Not to belabor a point, if you have questions, need help or advice, or just want to discuss a committee appointment, you can contact any of the appointing officers or me.